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on 3 January 2013
The Last Lingua Franca from Nicholas Ostler is a tremendous book, packed full to the brim of interesting facts and what to me seemed like obscure details worth knowing.

Never knew that Persian had been such an important language in the middle (and a bit further) east, good on you to the Malays for not embracing English too tightly when the time came to decide.

On the other hand, the book is so packed of facts, that the type used seems rather small, dense, and the sentence/paragraph structure can sometimes lead you to having to reread a section several times to actually fit the details into your noggin!

Overall well worth a read, but it won't be read in a day.
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"The decline of English, when it begins, will not seem of great moment". Thus with huge understatement, Nicholas Ostler begins his tour of lingua-francas culminating with his forecast for the future of English in that role.

Beginning with an overview of the current status of English around the world, Ostler then turns to the past. There is a lengthy case study of Persian, over two chapters successively considering the earlier use of the language followed by its rise as a lingua-franca amongst the predominantly Turkic speaking Islamic realms stretching from Anatolia through Central Asia to India.

Mechanisms for the spread of lingua-francas are surveyed, firstly by means of trade and then as a vehicle of religion - Pali amongst Buddhism, Latin in Western Europe, and Aramaic in the Middle East. Pathways of subsequent decline are analysed, characterised as "ruin" - economic decline, "relegation" - conscious political acts (such as the attack on Persian by the English in India, the Russians in Central Asia and nationalist Turks post WW1), and "resignation" - social changes (for example the decline of Latin, and later French and German as European lingua-francas).

In turning back to the future, Ostler casts his eye over the other major lingua-francas around the world today, and concludes that no one of them poses any threat to displace English. So what lies ahead? Will English consolidate and deepen its position as a genuine Worldspeak? Will it continue more or less as now, or perhaps even fragment into dialects? Or will it "resign" - retreat once again back to primarily a mother tongue losing its lingua-franca role?

Here Ostler sees a new hitherto unknown mechanism coming into play - technology and the internet. Before long the need to spend years learning a lingua-franca will be obviated by such tools at our disposal. The loss of lingua-francas will not be a return to Babel, rather "everyone will speak and write in whatever language they choose, and the world will understand".
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(Readers may wish to note that the paperback edition is under a separate listing here.)

"The decline of English, when it begins, will not seem of great moment". Thus with huge understatement, Nicholas Ostler begins his tour of lingua-francas culminating with his forecast for the future of English in that role.

Beginning with an overview of the current status of English around the world, Ostler then turns to the past. There is a lengthy case study of Persian, over two chapters successively considering the earlier use of the language followed by its rise as a lingua-franca amongst the predominantly Turkic speaking Islamic realms stretching from Anatolia through Central Asia to India.

Mechanisms for the spread of lingua-francas are surveyed, firstly by means of trade and then as a vehicle of religion - Pali amongst Buddhism, Latin in Western Europe, and Aramaic in the Middle East. Pathways of subsequent decline are analysed, characterised as "ruin" - economic decline, "relegation" - conscious political acts (such as the attack on Persian by the English in India, the Russians in Central Asia and nationalist Turks post WW1), and "resignation" - social changes (for example the decline of Latin, and later French and German as European lingua-francas).

In turning back to the future, Ostler casts his eye over the other major lingua-francas around the world today, and concludes that no one of them poses any threat to displace English. So what lies ahead? Will English consolidate and deepen its position as a genuine Worldspeak? Will it continue more or less as now, or perhaps even fragment into dialects? Or will it "resign" - retreat once again back to primarily a mother tongue losing its lingua-franca role?

Here Ostler sees a new hitherto unknown mechanism coming into play - technology and the internet. Before long the need to spend years learning a lingua-franca will be obviated by such tools at our disposal. The loss of lingua-francas will not be a return to Babel, rather "everyone will speak and write in whatever language they choose, and the world will understand".
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on 3 April 2015
An excellent, expertly-written book about the current status of English as an international language (lingua franca) and about its future prospects. Very thorough, with an extensive look at many other examples of (mainly past) lingua-francas. Very detailed treatment of e.g. the little-known case of Persian (little known by Europeans that is) makes it demanding reading, but the whole book gives a comprehensive account of the issues and makes for compelling reading - and it provides much food for thought.
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on 3 January 2016
Don`t remember so nothing unfavourable.
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on 4 April 2016
Very good book
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on 17 February 2015
very good
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